The Cultural Politics of “Spring Thunder”: The Naxalbari Movement and the Re-framing of Bengali Culture in the 1960s
This article tracks the radical turn in Bengali politics and culture and from the late 1960s, ushered in by the ultra-leftist Naxalbari Movement in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal. The movement initiated a search for a Maoist revolutionary praxis that could decisively liberate the dominant Bengali cultural sphere from its moorings in colonial and semi-feudal bourgeois class interests. The counter-hegemonic cultural praxis of the Naxalbari Movement repeatedly evaded its confinement within the diktats of a hardened party line (of the Communist Party of India – Marxist Leninist, which led the movement) but remained rich with multifarious possibilities, openings and narratives. The transgressive vision of this movement led to iconoclastic acts of destroying statues of deified cultural figures, publicly burning canonical books and assaulting higher academic institutions as sites of the propagation of a repressive culture. This article foregrounds the Naxalbari cultural debates along two distinct axes – the received tradition of Bengali culture from the colonial era and the internal schisms among intellectuals and cultural workers sympathetic to the broader objectives of the revolutionary culture articulated through the Naxalbari movement.
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